How to Apply for a Divorce in Washington State

By Heather Frances J.D.

When a Washington marriage doesn’t work out, the couple can receive a divorce, or dissolution, from a Washington court. Couples can file for divorce together or separately, and Washington courts can grant the divorce whether or not both spouses agree on all terms. However, the divorce process is typically shorter if the spouses agree on the major terms of their divorce and file together.

Filing for Divorce

One or both spouses must be a resident of Washington or stationed there in the military before the couple can file for divorce in the state. Though the court must have a reason, or grounds, upon which to base the divorce, Washington is a pure no-fault divorce state, which means the only ground for divorce is “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. To begin the process, one spouse must file a petition for dissolution and other forms in the Superior Court of the county where either spouse resides. You must include certain information, including your proposal for property division, child custody and alimony.

Service and Response

Once one spouse files the petition, he must serve the other spouse, called the respondent, with a copy of the petition and any other required forms. If the respondent spouse agrees with all proposed terms of the divorce, he can sign the joinder on the petition, which is a document indicating he agrees with the divorce and its terms. Then, the court can grant the divorce after a 90-day waiting period. If the respondent spouse does not agree, he can file a response to the petition within 30 days of service. The response should include requests for changes to the terms, and the spouses can attempt to reach an agreement on those terms after he files his response. If the spouses cannot reach agreement, the case will go to trial where the court will decide the terms.

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Temporary Orders

Once the divorce case is filed, the court can rule on either spouse’s requests for temporary orders. Temporary orders govern the spouses’ conduct while the divorce is pending. For example, the court can issue a temporary child support and alimony order that requires one spouse to pay support to the other until the divorce is finalized. The final divorce decree can make those orders apply after the divorce is complete, or the orders can simply expire when the court issues the divorce decree.

Final Hearing

Before a Washington court can grant a divorce in a case where both spouses agree, it must hold a final hearing where both spouses appear before the judge. Spouses must bring originals of several forms with them, including Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Decree of Dissolution, Parenting Plan Final Order, Order of Child Support and Child Support Work Sheet. Washington has a 90-day waiting period, so the final hearing cannot be scheduled until at least 90 days after the petition was filed.

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Divorce Laws for Army Members Stationed in Washington State

References

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Divorce doesn't happen overnight, but some states permit it to happen quicker than others. Arizona’s waiting period is 60 days, so spouses must wait at least that long, though divorce often takes much longer than 60 days if court schedules are busy or the couple cannot reach agreement about the major terms of the divorce.

Contested Divorce Procedures

The exact procedures of divorce vary between states, but divorce can be a fairly simple process if you have an uncontested divorce. For a divorce to be uncontested, you and your spouse must agree on the reason for the divorce and the terms of the settlement, such as property division, child custody and alimony. However, if you and your spouse contest, or dispute, the terms of your divorce -- or the reason for the divorce itself -- the process may be longer and more expensive.

Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law governs divorce cases, although each county court has its own rules regarding legal filings and fee schedule. In Pierce County, as in other Washington counties, the process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

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